The following post was written by Farah and Zainab, two Special Olympics Youth Leaders from Pakistan. The pair make it their mission to strengthen inclusion in their community. Check out how they #innovateforinclusion!
The objective of our youth leadership project was to increase awareness about intellectual disabilities in Pakistan by creating a model where there would be more interaction between the youth from the general public and those with intellectual disabilities. We began the project by identifying the most crucial local requirement in youth leadership. After a vigorous effort in understanding the societal structure, we concluded that ‘mission professional’ had to be implemented locally to create more awareness about people with intellectual disabilities and in turn gain sufficient support for our athletes’ future goals.
The project model was specifically designed to enhance soft skills of athletes in order to open vast doors of employment opportunities and aid them in achieving their career goals in the future. It was designed in such a way, that with the help of social media networking, we worked on engaging students from various colleges and universities to become Unified partners for various athletes and support them through this project.
The project outline was framed by beginning with a “meet and greet” for all the students who agreed to become part of “mission professional”. The purpose of this was to brief them on the project model and what the future sessions would require of them, along with increasing socialization between the main stream students and athletes. The “meet and greet” was followed by a brief informal communication skills workshop which included reading, writing, and listening activities to familiarize the athletes with the content covered in future workshops.
Humara Mustaqbil (Our Future) Society, a student led initiative of DOW Medical University conducted a series of workshops focused on communication and presentation skills. The content in the workshops was a combination of people skills, social skills, and communication skills in formal and informal environments, character or personality traits, attitudes, and career attributes.
In collaboration with the Athlete Leadership Program, the athletes underwent professional development to work on some necessary life skills such as key communication skills, interview behavior, and self-assessment skills, all of which will help them understand how to pursue their choice of future main stream careers.
Furthermore, during the course of this project there were a series of “Bocce Workshops” conducted with the aim of empowering the athletes with a refined skillset to gain employment as assistant coaches so they could teach the sport at mainstream schools. One of the largest retail outlets in Karachi, Imtiaz Superstore, attended one of these workshops to gain a firsthand experience at playing Unified. Their purpose was to learn and be able to create an inclusive and enabling work environment and job prospects for the athletes.
Additionally, a Unified event was held with SZABIST University. The event was a match of throw-ball and football with the SZABIST Sports Society and Special Olympics Pakistan team. The event aimed to empower the Special Olympics athletes and boost their self-confidence. The Youth Leadership Program focuses on creating awareness and inclusion about intellectual disabilities and increasing the participation of youth in building a Unified Generation.
Following this, a session was conducted on mental well-being for the Youth Leaders to learn how to prioritize and understand mental health. They were taught why learning about it is so important, how they can look after themselves, detect when there is a problem, and use steps to work towards a healthy every day regime. All of this was done to communicate to the Youth Leaders that the mental health is equally as important as a healthy body.
During this project period, numerous meetings were held with potential employers across Karachi including Habib Bank Limited (HBL), Careem, L’Oreal Pakistan, Imtiaz Superstore, Firefly Creatives, New World Concepts, The Second Floor(T2F), Dolmen Mall, and Foundation Public School(FPS). After understanding the requirements of the employers a structured standard was created which comprised of an initial “Meet & Greet” of potential employers and employees, followed by specific training focused on skill development of the athlete.
As a successful result of continuous hard work and training of the Youth Leaders, they showcased their remarkable skills at the 10th International Women Leaders Summit. This event was attended by 350 - 400 work professionals representing over 70 organizations from the public and private sectors in Pakistan.
Mission Professionals was successfully able to create awareness and calls-to-action with regards to inclusion in mainstream society. It significantly increased the number of Youth Leaders involved at a recurring basis throughout the year in various activities and created a structured path towards employment of the athletes. Mission Professionals continues to be a full-time project of Special Olympics Pakistan that collaborates with Athlete Leadership and Unified Sports programs to execute various youth-led initiatives.
The 2018–2019 Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant initiative is supported through partnerships with Hasbro, Inc., The Samuel Family Foundation, the Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Kantar Group, the Microsoft Corporation, Lane Global Youth Leadership, and the Lions Clubs International Foundation. Learn more about these inspiring projects at SpecialOlympicsGlobalYouthProjects.org.